IF YOU THINK your teen is easily sidetracked now, just wait! When she heads off to college, she’ll have to deal with new distractions of noisy dorms and the siren’s call of “Oh, c’mon . . . you can study later! Let’s go out for coffee!”
A Designated Workspace
High schoolers need to learn that there’s both a time and a place for school work and study. In College prep 101: Learning to Meet Deadlines, we looked at the element of time. Today, let’s talk about place.
Studying in front of the TV or trying to work at the kitchen table while the family plays and talks nearby will doom your student’s productivity. He needs a quiet spot for studying—a place set apart for school work alone.
I know this can be a challenge if you have a small house. Our daughter and her husband currently live in a two-bedroom house with four children, so I understand that this isn’t always possible. But if you can swing it, designate a workspace that’s separated from the family room, kitchen, or other busy, distracting, high-traffic locations.
Frequent interruptions do not belong in your teen’s study environment. By setting aside an isolated area used only for school work, you’re helping him make a healthy distinction between work and rest or play. A designated workspace promotes concentration during study times, which in turn will produce better academic results. Furthermore, a quiet area improves concentration, which means the student can get more done in less time. This adds up to more hours in which to enjoy his favorite pastimes—a worthwhile bonus.
5 Steps Toward Creating a Quiet Workspace
1. Establish and maintain a clutter-free zone.
Visual clutter is highly distracting, but a clean, orderly work surface greatly improves productivity.
2. Eliminate other distractions.
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Make this an electronics-free zone as well, with the exception of a computer and printer. If there’s a TV nearby, turn it off along with the phone. And if there’s just no such thing as a quiet nook in your home, consider investing in a set of noise-cancelling headphones
your teen can wear to block out peripheral noise.
3. Keep necessary supplies at hand.
Jumping up every five minutes to hunt down sharp pencils, paper, scissors, calculator, or a new ink cartridge eats up time and breaks concentration. Store school and office supplies in a handy drawer, basket, shelf, or tray and don’t allow them to be moved to other parts of the house.
4. Make the work area conducive to studying.
Your teen’s bed is not such a place. His body will identify the bed with sleeping, and his productivity will fade as he is overtaken by the temptation to nap.
5. Establish a comfortable studying environment.
Provide a reasonably sized work surface and a comfortable chair, and face the chair toward a window or wall so other household activity doesn’t compete for your teen’s attention. Warm or stale air can contribute to sleepiness, so keep a small fan handy. Finally, don’t forget to offer adequate lighting.
Next time I’ll share some ideas that, though necessary for good study habits, will be unpopular with your teen. I’m talking about limiting social network time.